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One of the critical issues facing healthcare systems internationally is to improve safety of care. Unfortunately, safety discussions, both in hospitals and in policy documents, often quickly turn to identifying and acting on ‘preventable’ mishaps. But preventability is a slippery concept, which this paper discusses. A contemporary policy response is to introduce financial incentives in hospitals and/or states to improve safety, proposed for national implementation in Australia from 1 July 2017. This has the potential to change the internal dynamic of hospitals to enhance the focus on safety. The implications for hospitals of this change are also discussed.
Abbreviations: COAG – Council of Australian Governments.